The US-led coalition used white phosphorus (WP) munitions while delivering air strikes against the Syrian province of Deir Ez-Zor on Oct. 13. The attack resulted in civilian casualties. Last month, WP munitions were also used by two US Air Force (USAF) F-15s in an attack on the town of Hajin in Deir-ez-Zor. The Syrian government has repeatedly condemned the US-led coalition, which claims that the need to fight ISIS justifies its military actions, while denying the fact it is using white phosphorous projectiles.
WP does not fall under the category of the chemical weapons that are banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention, but it is an incendiary weapon. As such, it cannot be used against non-combatants. Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons “prohibits the use of said incendiary weapons against civilians (already forbidden by the Geneva Conventions) or in civilian areas.” The substance ignites spontaneously upon contact with air, producing a dense white smoke. The heat can reach 800-900°C. No water will help. Severe injuries to internal organs could be caused when absorbed through the skin, ingested, or inhaled. Burning particles of white phosphorus produce thermal and chemical burns if they come into contact with the skin.
And Syria is not the only place where the US has used WP munitions. White phosphorous artillery shells were used in Iraq during the assault on Fallujah in 2004. The US admitted that fact. There have also been media reports about the use of WP in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria. Last year, the Washington Post published photographs of US Marines equipped with white phosphorus projectiles that were to be used in the battle for Raqqa. The source offered similar pictures showing WP munitions with US Army units outside Iraqi Mosul.
“No matter how white phosphorus is used, it poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm in crowded cities like Raqqa and Mosul and any other areas with concentrations of civilians.”